First Manhattans: A History of the Indians of Greater New York

Overview

A concise history of the Indians said to have sold Manhattan for $24

The Indian sale of Manhattan is one of the world's most cherished legends. Few people know that the Indians who made the fabled sale were Munsees whose ancestral homeland lay between the lower Hudson and upper Delaware river valleys. The story of the Munsee people has long lain unnoticed in broader histories of the Delaware Nation.

First Manhattans, a concise and lively ...

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First Manhattans: A History of the Indians of Greater New York

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Overview

A concise history of the Indians said to have sold Manhattan for $24

The Indian sale of Manhattan is one of the world's most cherished legends. Few people know that the Indians who made the fabled sale were Munsees whose ancestral homeland lay between the lower Hudson and upper Delaware river valleys. The story of the Munsee people has long lain unnoticed in broader histories of the Delaware Nation.

First Manhattans, a concise and lively distillation of the author's comprehensive The Munsee Indians, resurrects the lost history of this forgotten people, from their earliest contacts with Europeans to their final expulsion just before the American Revolution. Anthropologist Robert S. Grumet rescues from obscurity Mattano, Tackapousha, Mamanuchqua, and other Munsee sachems whose influence on Dutch and British settlers helped shape the course of early American history in the mid-Atlantic heartland. He looks past the legendary sale of Manhattan to show for the first time how Munsee leaders forestalled land-hungry colonists by selling small tracts whose vaguely worded and bounded titles kept courts busy—and settlers out—for more than 150 years.

Ravaged by disease, war, and alcohol, the Munsees finally emigrated to reservations in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Ontario, where most of their descendants still live today. With the four hundredth anniversary of Hudson's voyage to the river that bears his name, this book shows how Indians and settlers struggled, through land deals and other transactions, to reconcile cultural ideals with political realities. It offers a wide audience access to the most authoritative treatment of the Munsee experience—one that restores this people to their place in history.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As the story goes, canny Dutch traders purchased Manhattan for a pittance and established a world commercial capital. For the Munsee Indians, however, the 1624 transaction was merely the first of a long string of bad deals that ceded ancestral lands, resources, and eventually most of the cultural life of indigenous peoples in the greater New York area. Grumet, an anthropologist, meticulously reconstructs the creeping progress of European settlement, offering a definitive account of how the Munsees endured "affronts and abuses and held on to what they could." It's an admirable historical reconstruction, but rarely a lively one. Most of the narrative is based on colonial records that give little sense of the cultures that were in such fundamental conflict. While "nakedly manipulative deed deals done at the time were cynically dipped in drink and deceit," little context is conveyed in the author's prose. The 150 years of displacement and disfranchisement has a less dramatic historical context than other episodes in the history of European settlement of North America, but the Munsees met their fate early, and this account revives a vital part of New York history that would otherwise be consigned to obscurity. (June)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806141633
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,406,766
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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